Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Week 19


Aix-en-Provence, France (125)
Not long ago, Pablo Cuevas (33, #49, Uruguay) lost in qualies of Estoril 250 to Salvatore Caruso.  However, he was given a lifeline in that tournament as a Lucky Loser.  His first order of business was to utterly annihilate Salvatore Caruso in R1.  From there, Cuevas lost in the Final to Tsitsipas, then followed that up by winning this Challenger.  He is having quite a season on the dirt.
He defeated Quentin Halys (22, #154, France) in the final in 3 sets.  Halys was unseeded, but kind of "took over" the #2 seed after defeating Jiri Vesely in R2.

Busan, South Korea (125)
Another hard court Challenger, another title for Ricardas Berankis (28, #70, Lithuania).  He's now tied with Sascha Bublik for Most Challenger Titles this year.  Berankis is wisely avoiding clay, a surface he's never been very good on.  Will he skip the French, despite his current ranking?
Like in Aix-en-Provence, Berankis was #1 seed here and defeated an unseeded opponent in the final, one Andrew Harris (25, #223, Australia).  Harris was mentioned previously when he made the finals of Chennai.  He's been having a good year and is up to 21-9 on hard courts in 2019.

Rome, Italy (90)
No, not THAT Rome, the Rome Challenger.  This one was won by #4 seed Henri Laaksonen (27, #105, Switzerland), who upset the Italian crowd by defeating #2 seed Paolo Lorenzi in the SFs and narrowly squeaking past #17 Gian-Marco Moroni (21, #216, Italy) in the final.  "The Great Laak" is 11-3 on clay this year and has two 2019 Challenger titles to boot.  What can we expect from him in Paris?  Anything?

Braga, Portugal (80)
Boy, this Joao Domingues (25, #163, Portugal) has quietly had an amazing couple of months.  Runner-up in Tunis 80, QFs of Estoril 250, and now his second career Challenger title here at home in Portugal.  This has gotten him up to 17-8 on clay, much improved from his under .500 effort in 2018.  He was #13 seed here and defeated #2 seed Fertile Bathroom (29, #144, Argentina) in the final in 3 sets.

Shymkent, Kazakhstan (80)
And it's two titles in a row for Andrej Martin (29, #166, Slovakia)!  After winning Nanchang 80 two weeks ago, he's now won this title as well, his winning streak now up to 11 matches!  Amazing!  He even defeated #1 seed Egor Gerasimov here in the SFs quite easily.  However, Andrej isn't the whole story by himself.  The runner up here was a total shocker: Dmitry Popko (22, #359, Kazakhstan).  Young and a favorite of the home crowd, Popko has won SEVEN (!) Futures tournaments on clay so far this year for an absurd clay record of 50-7 for 2019.  The Shymkent organizers wisely gave him a WC here and he did not disappoint, defeating the #3, #5, and #15 seeds and even taking the 1st set off #4 seed Andrej Martin in the final before finally succumbing!  I think Popko should have no trouble staying above Futures level going forward.



Bonita Springs, Florida, USA (100)
A couple weeks ago, Lauren Davis (25, #112, USA) was a mere point away from winning Dothan W80, but she couldn't close it out.  This week, she gets redemption.  And what sweet redemption it is, winning an even higher-value tournament!  Davis was #4 seed here and never even had to play a seeded player.  However, her opponent in the final was a very talented and promising one who I think is proving that she has an extremely bright future: Ann Li (18, #167, USA)!  My second-favorite young Asian American tennis player, Li lost to Davis 5 and 5 in the final, but she continues to show great promise on clay, having now gone 10-2 on the surface over her last 3 tournaments.  Remember, she had an 11-10 pro record on the surface before this year.
Elsewhere, my FIRST-favorite young Asian American tennis player, Claire Liu, was truly busting her slump and annihilating Whitney Osuigwe in R2, only to injure herself and retire from the match.  A bad year gets worse for her, and for me as well.  I really hope she's ok.

Cagnes-sur-Mer, France (80)
Top seed here was Vitalia Diatchenko, who has won a staggering FIVE titles this year and was on a mindblowing 15 match win streak coming into this tournament.  We can assume she made the transition to clay perfectly and won the title and.......... nope, she lost in the first dang round in straights.  Curious.
But her loss was Christina McHale's (27, #119, USA) gain, as she takes the title without dropping a set!  It's McHale's first title of any kind since 2016 and despite her not dropping a set, it did NOT come easy.  She had to beat the likes of Bernarda Pera, Timea Bacszinszky, and finally Stefanie Voegele in the final in order to take this title.  A truly impressive run of matches for Christina.  This is actually her biggest career ITF title.

Luan, China (60)
Han Xinyun (28, #182, China) could scarcely BUY a win in 2019 before this tournament.  She was 4-10 on the year and had lost 6 of her last 8 matches.  And then she decides she's just going to win this W60 title, even defeating #1 seed Zhu Lin along the way.
Han has been ranked as high as #105 in the world and has several career ITF titles, but only one is bigger than this title.  Could this be a good turning point for her in 2019?  Let's see how she does in Strasbourg qualies, starting tomorrow.

Fukuoka, Japan (60)
Major kudos to our seeded women here, as the SFs were contested between the #1, #2, #4, and #6 seeds, with #1 Zarina Diyas and #2 Heather Watson playing each other in the final.  After two TB sets, it was Watson (26, #110, Britain) who took the title, getting her first tournament win at any level since she won Monterrey 280 back in 2016.  Watson came into this tournament on an 8 match losing streak and was 2-9 on the year.  This is a good week for busting slumps. 
Diyas, for her part, did a great job keeping up her winning form from her Gifu W80 title last week, but just didn't have enough left in the tank to win two titles back to back.  She's ranked #90 now.

Rome, Italy (25)
Daniela Seguel (26, #330, Chile) continues to really enjoy the clay this year.  She made the finals of Tunis W25, and now she takes the title here in Rome!  That's good for 12-2 in her last 14 matches.  She even defeated on-fire #1 seed Elena Rybakina in R2 here.  Runner-up here was Gabriella Ce (26, #385, Brazil), making this her 2nd runner-up appearance in as many weeks.

Obidos 3, Portugal (25)
#3 seed Pemra Ozgen (33, #252, Turkey) defeated #1 seed Valentini Grammatikopoulou in SFs, and then #4 Urszula Radwanska (28, #300, Poland) retired with injury in the final.  This makes Ozgen's first title of 2019 ad her 4th at the W25 level, the highest level she has achieved.

Monzon, Spain (25)
I can only assume that the tournament organizers here forgot they were in Spain and accidentally organized an illegal hard court tournament.  Either way, it worked out well for #4 seed Nadia Podoroska (22, #270, Argentina), who won the title, defeating home-favorite #5 seed Cristina Busca (21, #258, Spain) in the final in 3 sets.  Podoroska was once nearly a Top 150 player.  Her hard court record this year is 15-7, which is decent but not great.

W15 Champs for Week 19
- Natasha Subhash (17, #788, USA), 1st career title, 10-3 on the year
- Johana Markova (20, #616, Czech), 1st career title, recently played her first ever Tour level qualies in Prague 280, getting utterly crushed in QR1 by Jasmine Paolini.
- Draginja Vukovic (19, #818, Serbia), 3rd career title, had a dismal 5-7 2019 record before winning this week.
- Aneta Laboutkova (19, #???, Czech), 1st career title, was 3-6 on the year before this. Won the final from 2-6, 6-6 down.
- Eva "Eddie" Vedder (19, #???, Netherlands), 1st career title
- Eleonora Molinaro (18, #480, Luxembourg), 2nd title this year, 4th all time, now 20-4 on clay this year.


Where Are Last Week's Champs Now?
- Sebastian Ofner lost his first match in Heilbronn 2 Challenger.
- Lucas Pouille lost in R2 of Madrid Masters and R1 of Rome Masters.
- Kwon Soon-woo was upset in his first match in Busan, but is currently into the SFs of Gwangju.
- Kamil Majchrzak lost in QFs of Rome 2.
- Taylor Townsend lost in QFs of Bonita Springs W100 to Whitney Osuigwe, the same player who beat her in her last loss before this one.
- Zarina Diyas lost in the finals of Fukuoka W60 (see above).
- Katy Dunne retired with injury in R1 of Fukuoka W60.
- Mirjam Bjorklund lost in R2 of Rome W25, then R1 of La Bisbal W60 after successfully qualifying for the main draw there.
- Sofya Lansere lost in QR2 of Saint-Gaudens W60.
- Valeria Savinykh lost in QFs of Luan W60 to eventual champ Han Xinyun (see above) and is currently into the SFs of Singapore W25.
- Indy de Vroome withdrew from a W15 before her SF match with Eva Vedder (see above).
- Estelle Cascino lost in QR1 of Cagnes-sur-Mer W80, then retired with injury in QR1 of Saint-Gaudens W60.

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Great summary as always. Auto correct turned poor Bagnis into Fertile Bathroom. No wonder Domingues won. I guess there is nothing else to Braga about smile

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Thanks Arvis, thorough as ever! Hope Claire recovers quickly! Thanks TD too;- I was just about to chase up the identity of the Fertile Bathroom!!

2016:-Diamond Droid and Captain Plasma Helmet Champ.
2018:-Ruby Droid and Jar Jar Dartboard Champ.
2019:-Yoda Crew Most Improved Player. 

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Drivers wrote:

Thanks Arvis, thorough as ever! Hope Claire recovers quickly! Thanks TD too;- I was just about to research the provenance of the Fertile Bathroom!!

2016:-Diamond Droid and Captain Plasma Helmet Champ.
2018:-Ruby Droid and Jar Jar Dartboard Champ.
2019:-Yoda Crew Most Improved Player. 

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

LOL, "Fertile Bathroom" is an old in-joke amongst the Yoda Crew. tongue

I can't update this thread like I have been, but here are some cool stories:

Abigail TERE-APISAH, who won a W25 in Singapore a couple weeks ago and who represents Papua New Guinea.

Also, Marcela Zacarias is up to 4 Cancun W15 titles in a row now.

Marina Yudanov played some pro tennis between the ages of 15-17, then quit and went to school for engineering, where she worked professionally for years.
Then at 27 years of age she quit engineering to go back to tennis, which was her dream!  She now has two pro titles!